So as luck would have it, I actually got to attend both of today's quarterfinal matches, so before we get to our normal Gold Cup rundown, here's my thoughts on each of the two games:
USA 6 CUBA 0
In honor of the U.S.'s six goals, here are six things:
1) Cuba was badly overmatched in this one. I don't know if the defections have taken a toll, but Cuba never really looked threatening at any point in the match. It was so bad, that I had one of my college teammates posit that our Division III collegiate team could've given Cuba a run for its money. While I'm not sure that's a fair statement, it does capture how bad the U.S. made the Cubans look. It didn't help that there wasn't really a Cuban contingent to cheer them on either. Maybe the next Gold Cup will be different.
2) It was only one game, but the U.S. didn't really appear to miss Jozy Altidore at all. Yes, it helps when you're playing against the Cubans, but Aron Johannsson looked more than capable alongside Clint Dempsey in his 90 minute shift. The U.S. didn't even need to bring on its veteran reserve strikers, Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski. Fun fact, when the two played together for San Jose in 2012, they combined for 40 goals and 14 assists.
3) DeAndre Yedlin's speed makes him unbelievably dangerous every time he gets the ball, and it was all the more evident against a team like Cuba. I just wish his services were a little more dangerous. If he develops that part of his game, look out world. The one thing that really struck me as interesting was that when Yedlin came into the game, Gyasi Zardes slid over to left mid/wing while Alejandro Bedoya held down left back. I'm not really sure what the driver behind that move was since Yedlin can defend, but nevertheless, there we were. That said, I do not expect we'll see Bedoya patrolling the back line moving forward.
4) I'm not sure I like Joe Corona in the holding midfielder role, but that does beg the question: Since Kyle Beckerman is no spring chicken, who are we grooming to take over that role? Perry Kitchen? Wil Trapp? Alfredo Morales just went home, Tim Ream is almost 30... I dunno. I don't want to say he's irreplaceable or anything, because we obviously did fine after Becks left the game, but I am curious as to what our long term plan is in the central midfield.
5) So our back four certainly wasn't exposed against Cuba, but I still think they're the team's weak link. I'm pretty comfortable with Fabian Johnson on the left side, but the other three spots are all pretty suspect. I wouldn't go as far as to say that we're playing guys who don't belong on the international stage, but they currently aren't one of our strengths. And I'll be honest, I know Timmy Chandler had a nifty assist on the opening goal, but I think the team plays better with Brad Evans back there. And I couldn't begin to tell you which pairing of center backs we should be starting. It wouldn't have mattered against Cuba, but I guarantee it will come up in the semifinals and potentially the finals assuming we can get that far.
6) It's hard to believe that that was Clint Dempsey's first hat trick with the U.S. It's the fourth time a U.S. player has picked up a hat trick during the Gold Cup, with Chris Wondolowski (2013), Landon Donovan (2003) and Brian McBride (2002) owning the other three. Dempsey's now just 10 goals away from tying Landon Donovan for the all-time U.S. lead at 57, and his six goals lead all players in the tournament.
Jamaica 1 Haiti 0
I've got to tell you, I was really impressed with Haiti tonight. No, they didn't win, and they're at least a solid striker away from really being competitive in CONCACAF, but they were a lot of fun to watch. They're fast, they attack, they take players on, and their fans were amazing. Drums and horns and chanting for the whole 90 minutes. It was awesome to experience. Unfortunately, they just lacked creativity and vision in the final third and despite outshooting Jamaica 28-12 and attempting 17 corners while controlling over 60% of the possession, they just weren't particularly dangerous. Jamaica's back four and back-up keeper Ryan Thompson were up to the task. As far as Jamaica goes, I never realized what a beast Giles Barnes is. He definitely plays bigger than his 5'11" listing suggests, and it was his rocket from no angle that was the difference in the match. I like the U.S.'s chances against Jamaica moving forward, but they'll have to contain Barnes if they hope to advance.
MLSers in Action
MLSers combined for six goals in the first two quarterfinal matches. Here's a rundown of all the action:
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy/USA) - Started, 90 mins, 2 shots, 1 goal
Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy/USA) - Started, 90 mins, 4 shots, 1 goal
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake/USA) - Started, 45 mins
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/USA) - Started, 90 mins, 3 shots, 3 assists
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders/USA) - Started, 90 mins, 5 shots, 3 goals
Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders/USA) - Sub, 45 mins
Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls/Jamaica) - Started, 90 mins, 1 shot
Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo/Jamaica) - Started, 89 mins, 3 shots, 1 goal